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Allowing commercial mining of coal by private firms within a year and reviving hydro power projects with financial aid in the next six months are key to building energy security of the country, a group of secretaries to the government has advised Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The group, comprising top officials of about 10 departments, suggested a six-pronged strategy to face the energy and environment-related challenges. These include taking policy decisions in the next 1-3 years in areas of energy security, fuel substitution, energy efficiency, energy access and environment conservation, a senior government official said.
The group has also sought expanding direct benefit transfer (DBT) scheme available for LPG customers to kerosene and electricity within a year.
Performance audit of distribution companies, the weakest link in the Indian power sector, has been recommended besides other measures such as introducing effective feeder metering, consumer mapping, smart metering and differential electricity tariff for peak and non-peak hours.
Exploring multilateral funds for promoting manufacturing of energy-efficient equipment and mandatory use of star-labelled electrical equipment by households have also been recommended. Renewable energy status, interest subvention schemes and long-term financial support to hydro projects of less than 100 MW have been called for by the group.
The group, comprising oil secretary Kapil Tripathi, power secretary PK Pujari, coal secretary Susheel Kumar and former coal secretary Anil Swarup, mines secretary Balvinder Kumar and renewable energy secretary Rajeev Kapoor, is among eight groups constituted for suggestions on various sectors.
The group has recommended competition to state-run Coal India Ltd in commercial coal mining. The Coal Mines Special Provision Act of 2015 provides for opening up commercial coal mining to private entities.
So far, Indian companies with end-use plants have been allowed to mine coal for captive purposes. The Act ends the monopoly of Coal India in commercial mining and allows private companies registered in India to mine and sell coal.
The group of secretaries suggested putting in place a satellite surveillance system for mines, single-window for obtaining environment, forest, wild life and coastal regulation zone clearances in six months.
It asked for creating online process for clearance at all levels. The secretaries also suggested low GST slab in the forthcoming Budget for the renewable energy sector, energy efficient equipment, star-rated products and coal beneficiation.
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